I’ve spent enough time griping about body snatching storylines to harp on the ending too much, so I’ll just say that it’s a bit of a narrative cul de sac considering we’ve already done this whole song and dance. The one twist is that FitzSimmons know exactly who the impostors are, so hopefully, that will produce good drama. I’m also willing to give the show the benefit of the doubt considering how strong this season has been overall. The recent run of episodes have been some of the strongest Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has ever produced, and have let the entire cast shine. This week even saw fit to remember that Ming-Na Wen is an actor and not a prop by bringing her back in flashback form to tease out the origin of her relationship with Coulson (you can tell she’s younger because she has bangs). In fact, the flashback to “Some Time Ago” (Marvel trolling us about their notoriously vague timeline) was the highlight of the episode and I really hope we see more like it.

The whole idea of showing bits of Coulson’s past is a fascinating concept. We’ve had a number of backstory episodes for May, and it makes sense to do the same for her equally cryptic partner. The flashback does an excellent job of reminding us how uncool Coulson was when we first met him. He’s always been charming, to be sure, but the shades of badass have been added over time. For a man so connected to just about every aspect of the MCU, as Ivanov helpfully reminds us, there’s not much we know about Philip J. Fry…sorry, Coulson. While there likely isn’t any juicy skeletons hiding in his closet (you know, aside from the fact that he was brought back to life), it’s still nice just seeing how he formed some of the bonds in his life. I would absolutely love Samuel L. Jackson‘s next appearance to be in a flashback to the early days of Fury and Coulson (one where Fury calls Coulson ‘Cheese,’ just to bring it full circle with the comics).

MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. - "The Man Behind the Shield"

The LMD stuff is just window dressing, and its days as a plot element are numbered. The characters, however, are what keep this show grounded and maintain its continuity. Moments like Fitz being confronted by Mack and then later breaking down to Simmons, or Coulson burning Ivanov with “Cool origin story, bro” are what make this show so engrossing and watchable. The worry over the impostor arc is that it threatens to take that character development and place it on proxies, thereby resetting our real heroes whenever they inevitably return. By having Moleson and Nay begin a budding relationship (Fauxlinda shall be its shipping name), it makes the real thing fairly unlikely as it would just be the show repeating itself. It also reinforces how difficult it can be to review a TV show week to week, as you can only see the trees and not the whole forest and therefore don’t know if this will all shake out or not.

For my final paragraph, I don’t have a good transition, so I’ll just say “bigots, amiright?” The thing about prejudice is that it’s often presented as highly logical by the holder of the beliefs, but in reality is riddled with holes. During the fight between Quake and Ivanov, the Not-So-Superior keeps claiming things like the fight is unfair and Quake is cheating. While Daisy lands a killer line about him “playing by the old rules” which could double as a recrimination of clinging to tradition in the face of progress, Ivanov’s whole argument is invalid. Both fighters were born with certain skills and have trained to acquire new abilities. Just like Quake, Ivanov employs augmentation in the form of weapons and equipment, not to mention henchman and other resources. Villains who hate Inhumans and mutants love to claim that their opponents are fighting unfairly, but we’re all born with certain attributes that can qualify us for particular things or make it harder to do the things we may want to do. My height means I’d have to develop some really good free throw skills if I ever wanted to be a basketball player, and as good of a fighter as Ivanov is, he’s always going to have an uphill battle against “enhanced” individuals. The hubris of individualism is blaming everybody but yourself for your failings. At the root of all bigotry is insecurity covered in layers of pride. Both flair up when someone different from you succeeds where you’ve failed, as insecurity brings resentment and pride blinds you to your own shortcomings in the matter. We all have to work to balance these urges and those who fail to do so often emerge as villains.

FINAL SCORE

4.5 Aida Burns out of 5. So many burns in this episode, but Aida’s was the best as Ivanov is such a creep.

ONE-SHOTS

  • I got all warm and fuzzy during the flashback tag with Coulson and May in the car.

  • So, the whole body swap timing is unclear to me. Were all those sick lines and takedowns from Coulson and Quake really from LMDs? When exactly did they get swapped out?

  • Also, did anyone else thing all that wonkiness Simmons noticed was leading to the reveal that they were somehow inside the framework? Would have made much more narrative sense as they teased it all episode.

  • Agent Piper was on Supergirl last week, so that might explain her recent absence. In other news, high Agent Morales! Hope you survive.

  • Those headphones don’t look very immersive.

  • “You should try sunglasses.”

  • “I seem to go through men like paper towels.” I love young May.

  • Has Radcliffe not noticed Aida took Agnes’ necklace?

  • “Trap doors. Sharks with lasers. Who knows?” Good piggyback off of Mack’s Bond villain joke.

  • Why is Mack the only one who uses live ammo?

  • “I’m not a cheater, you’re just playing by the old rules.”